Oil Kings 3 Rebels 1
The Red Deer Rebels gave the defending WHL champion Edmonton Oil Kings everything they could handle Friday at the Centrium, but still came up short.
After playing the visitors at least even up through the first two periods, the Rebels wilted somewhat in the third, which proved to be the difference in a 3-1 Edmonton victory before 6,301 patrons.
“Close doesn’t cut it,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter.
“It’s a 1-1 game going into the third and I thought the third period was probably our worst period of the game. We didn’t seem to have any push at all in the third.”
The Oil Kings didn’t dominate the final frame, but while the Rebels struggled to create scoring chances, the visitors got a fluke goal for the win and then added an empty-net marker from Curtis Lazar with one second remaining.
Griffin Reinhart’s point shot bounced off the end boards and off the skate of Rebels netminder Patrik Bartosak and in for the winning tally at 6:59 of the third period.
To that point, the Rebels were at least holding their own against the visitors, getting a second-period go-ahead goal from newcomer Jordan DePape, who buried a rebound while parked at the edge of the crease.
But in the end, the hockey gods were on the side of the Oil Kings.
“They got a lucky break on the winning goal, but that being said, you’re not going to win many games scoring one goal,” said Sutter.
“We never created enough in the third outside of a short-handed chance (by Brooks Maxwell). Outside of that we just weren’t good enough in the third period, or at least as good enough as you need to be at this time of the year to win a game.”
Both goaltenders were on top of their game, with Laurent Brossoit turning aside 30 shots for the Oil Kings and Bartosak making 28 saves.
Brossoit made a game-saving stop on Dominik Volek in the third period after coming up with a pad stop on Joel Hamilton, while Bartosak took goals away from Lazar, Dylan Wruck and Mitch Moroz.
Sutter was pleased with the DePape’s play, considering it was his first game since undergoing shoulder surgery last November.
“I was happy for Jordan. It was huge to get him into a game situation and I thought he responded very well,” said Sutter.
The game was basically meaningless for both clubs, considering the Oil Kings had already clinched top spot in the Eastern Conference and the Rebels had nailed down fourth place.
“The big thing is motivating the players at this time of the year when there’s nothing to play for,” said Edmonton head coach Derek Laxdal.
“But we’re trying to teach these kids that any time you tie up the laces you play hard and I’m sure Brent is telling his guys the same thing.
“We knew coming in here that Red Deer was going to play hard and that they’re a physical team with an outstanding goaltender. It was a close game and if you don’t’ shoot the puck good things aren’t going to happen. We got a lucky bounce on our second goal. It was a pretty tight game and at the end of the day, but we’ll take the W.”
Sutter had originally planned on sitting his top line of Maxwell, Turner Elson and Rhyse Dieno, as well as Bartosak — who would be replaced by Bolton Pouliot — and rearguards Mathew Dumba and Brady Gaudet for tonight’s regular-season ending game at Edmonton.
Following Friday’s outing, he wasn’t necessarily stuck on the idea.
“I would have looked at it if we had played a 60-minute game tonight, but after playing just 40 minutes I might change my mind,” he said.
With both the Prince Albert Raiders and Swift Current Broncos winning Friday, the Rebels are still unsure of their first-round playoff opponents.
Red Deer will host either the Raiders or Broncos in an Eastern Conference quarter-final starting next Friday at the Centrium.
° The Rebels handed out their regular-season hardware prior to Friday’s contest, with captain Turner Elson accepting the Red Deer Advocate players award and the humanitarian award. Mathew Dumba was named top defenceman, while Haydn Fleury was honoured as top rookie, Bartosak was named team MVP and defenceman Devan Fafard was singled out as the team’s most under-rated player.